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Cbc Battle of
A Story of the Storming of
THE NARRATIVE OF RUFUS AVERY,
From the Original Manuscript,
AND OTHER INTERESTING MATTER.
HANDSOnELY ILLUSTRATED BY FULL=PAOE ENQRA VINOS.
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Battle of Groton Heights
J^ STORY OF THE
STORMING OF FORT GRISWOLD,
Burning of :n^ew London,
SIXTH OF SEPTEMBER, 1781.
BY REV. N. H. BURNHANl.
THE NARRATIVE OF RUFUS AVERY,
(FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT)
STATEMENT OF AVERY DOWNER, M. D.
BIOGRAPICAL SKETCHES OF COL. WILLIAM LEDYARD
AND MOTHER BAILEY,
POEM BY LEONARD WOOLSEY BACON,
Delivered on the Centennial Anniversary of the Battle of Groton Heights, September (i, 1881.
NEW LONDON. CONN.:
Bingham Paper Box Co.'s Print, Mountain Avenue.
The Qroton Monument.
The Groton Monument.
MOVED by the patriotic sentiments which the memury of such
a day in our national history as September 6th, 1781, is
calculated to arouse, " a number of gentlemen in Groton, in
the year 1826, organized an association for the purpose of erecting
a monument." This simple memorial shaft is composed of granite
quarried from the same soil which those to whom it is dedicated,
defended with their lives. The corner stone was laid September 6th,
1826, and the monument was dedicated September 6th, 1830, in a
manner befitting the place and the occasion.
During the centennial year of 1881, the height, originally one
hundred and twenty-seven feet, was extended, so that the column now
measures one hundred and thirty-five feet. Other important improve-
ments were also made. The monument is in form an obelisk, twenty-
two feet square at base of the shaft, and eight and one-half feet at
the base of the pyramidion, resting on a die twenty-four feet
square, and this again on a base twenty-six feet square. The top is
reached by a circular stairway of one hundred and sixty-six steps, and
is two hundred and sixty-five feet above the waters of the Thames.
From the apex a picture of unrivaled beauty presents itself, covering
the opposite bank of the river, the hills to the west of Montville, and
extending far out over the waters of Long Island Sound, as well as
Fishers Island Sound and Fishers Island.
The original marble slab inserted in the west wall of the die
contained the following insciiption :
Was erected under the patronage of the State of Connecticut, A. D. 1830,
and in the 55th year of the Independence of the U. S. A.
/;/ Ahmory of the Brave Patriots
who fell in the massacre of Fort Griswold near this spot
on the 6th of September, A. D. 1781,
when the British under the command of
the traitor Benedict Arnold,
burnt the towns of New London & Groton, and spread
desolation and woe throughout this region.
The visitor to the scenes of Fort Griswold should not fail to
note the well, which is the same existing at the time of the massacre,
and to which dying men " in fevered anguish wistfullj- turned and
vainly craved of the implacable Briton its cooling draught."
4 The Groton Moftuf?ient.
On the left of the entrance and enclosed by an iron fence is a
granite slab marking the spot where Colonel Ledyard fell, and bearing
the inscription :
ON THIS SPOT
COL. WILLIAM LEDYARD
FELL BY HIS OWN SWORD IN THE HANDS
OF A BRITISH OFFICER TO WHOM HE HAD
SURRENDERED IN THE MASSACRE OF
FORT GRISWOLD, SEPT. 6, I781.
In the year 1893, the Groton Monument Association applied to
the State Legislature for an appropriation of five thousand dollars,
which was promptly granted. This appropriation was expended in
needed repairs upon the monument and in extensive improvements
on the adjacent grounds. A panel of white bronze bearing the same
inscription as the former marble slab, which had become cracked and
otherwise defaced, was inserted in the same place in the monument
as that occupied by the one removed. The above repairs were com-
pleted in the early part of 1 894.
Recently the Anna Warner Bailey Chapter of the Daughters of
the American Revolution, through their regent, applied for the use of
the stone house adjoining the monument, as a repository for such
revolutionary relics and mementos as are now, or shall hereafter come
into their possession, and for other purposes.
Thus the Groton Monument stands today as a shrine, to which
all who dwell beneath its shadow may often turn, or to which they
may welcome those who, as pilgrims, shall visit it to learn or to recall
the cherished names and mighty deeds of those brave men, to whom
it has been erected as a constant and enduring memorial.
The Battle of Groton Heights.
THE Battle of Groton Heights, fought September 6th, 1 781, well
deserves to be ranked with the contest at Lexington and Bunker
Hill — those famous preludes to Saratoga and Yorktown. In
this conflict, as in those, the heroic patriotism of our Revolutionary
sires was displayed with a simple and touching grandeur that must
ever awaken in the heart of every true American feelings of the deep-
est gratitude and admiration.
To outward seeming the battle was a defeat. In reality it was a
glorious victory, whose every incident is worthy of being treasured up
among the precious memorials of those revolutionary days. A small
band of patriotic warriors defending their own and the liberties of
thousands, yet unborn, against the forces of tyranny and oppression,
such was the contest upon which the sun looked down on that memor-
rable September day, more than a hundred years ago. While, on the
other hand, the foes of the liberty strove with an equally clear and
Sir Henry Clinton, greatly chagrined at the manner in which he
had been outwitted by General Washington, determined to retrieve
his error by striking a decisive blow that should at once and forever
deliver the high seas from the hated presence and depredations of
those bold and adventurous American privateers, whose daring and
successful exploits had so grievously injured British commerce, and so
exasperatingly insulted and persistently defied British pride and
British power. And, since from its harbor there had gone forth multi-
tudes of these determined and successful opponents of the royal cause,
upon their return had found a ready mart for their prizes and spoil
among its townspeople, it was determined to make a bold and resolute
attack upon New London. And thus, at the same time, to satisfy the
desire for revenge and the thirst for plunder, a plunder most rich.
"The cargo of the merchant ship Hannah alone being valued at four
hundred thousand dollars."
For this expedition great preparations were made and the com-
mand of it shrewdly given to that Judas of the Revolution, Benedict
Arnold, who, in September, 1780, had "deserted the American cause
and had been received into the British service with the rank of Briga-
It was the fleet of thirty-two sail, bearing the troops to their desti-
nation, that Sergeant Rufus Avery discovered from his lofty station in
Fort Griswold at the earhest dawn of that renowned September morn-
ing. Instantly informing his superior officer, Capt. William Latham,
6 The Battle of Grotori Heights.
of the fact, the latter at once perceived the urgency of the case and
sent a messenger immediately to Col. William Ledyard, under whose
command Forts Griswold and Trumbull and the adjacent harbor then
were. To this summons Col. Ledyard quickly responded. On em-
barking to cross from New London to Fort Griswold he remarked to
friends gathered around him, "If I have this day to lose either life or
honor, you who know me best know which it will be." On his arrival
he "ordered," says Sergeant Avery, "two large guns to be loaded
with heavy charges of good powder, etc." Of one of these Capt.
Latham took charge and the worthy Sergeant of the other, directing it
"so as to give a 'larum' to the country in the best manner that could
, be done." "Two guns," he tells us, "was the regular 'larum,' but the
enemy understood that and they discharged a third gun, similar to
ours and timed it alike, which broke our 'larum,' which discouraged
our troops from coming to our assistance."
A few hours later began that conflict destined to put the constancy
and valor of both soldiers and citizens to a test as terrible as it was
severe. The invading army disembarked on either side of the river.
Those upon the west shore being under the immediate command of
General Arnold, and proceeding on their march with no other evidence
of an enemy's presence than the salute "with one volley" from the
guns of the battery by Capt. Shapley and his brave men from Fort
Trumbull. The latter he then abandoned, after spiking its guns, and
proceeded to embark his forces in three boats, one of which was taken
by the enemy. Seven of his men were also wounded before they suc-
ceeded in gaining the kindly protection of Fort Griswold on the oppo-
site shore. No other course was left to the patriot Captain, since Fort
Trumbull was at best only "a water battery," enth'ely unable to resist
the attack of an opposing military force.
In the meantime another portion of the British troops hod effected
a landing under their commander, Col. Eyre, upon the eastern shore,
at Groton Point. After a somewhat retarded march these troops
were formed m line " under the lee of a rock)^ height one hundred and
thirty yards southeast from the fort." From this place "a flag of
truce " was despatched demanding the immediate and unconditional
surrender of the fortress. Their demand was refused as was also a
second coupled with the threat that "if obliged to storm the works,
martial law should be put in force." To this the instant response was
returned, "We shall not surrender, let the consequences be what they
may." In answer to this brave defiance the enemy at once pressed
forward to the attack, " with a quick step in solid columns," eight
hundred men against a hundred and fifty ! Yet this small band of
patriots, animated by the justice of their cause and by the hope of
promised reinforcements, prepared to offer their foes a brave and
resolute resistance. " Col. Ledyard ordered his men to reserve their
The Battle of Groton Heights. 7
fire until the detachment which came up first had reached the proper
distance." When the word was given an eighteen pounder loaded
with two bags of grape shot was opened upon them, and it was sup-
posed that twenty men fell to the ground killed or wounded by that
first discharge." " It cleared," said an eye-witness, " a wide space in
their c6lumn." Their line now became so broken that the fields in
every direction were " covered with scarlet-coated soldiers with trailed
arms, in every variety of posture, bending, prostrate, dropping, half-
up, rushing forward, and still keeping a kind of order." Again they
attempt the assault, in order to seize upon the southwest bastion of
the fort, only to be met with the same deadly and persistent fire as be-
fore, while they bear from the field their commander, CoL Eyre,
At the same moment a still fiercer conflict is taking place on the
northeast side of the fort. Major Montgomery having lead his
soldiers in solid ranks through the abandoned redoubt, from whence
rushing with "great fury" into the ditch below he seizes and holds it,
and a moment later the rampart, defended by bent pickets and so
high the soldiers could not scale it " without assisting each other."
Nor was this all, for the Americans, unable to oppose the progress of
the besiegers, otherwise showered upon their heads " cold shot nine
pounders and every variety of missile that could be seized upon." In
the language of another, " the vigor of the attack and the defence
were both admirable." At this point Major Montgomery was killed,
and the fury of his troops was redoubled.
At last, by sheer force of numbers, all opposing obstacles were
overcome, and one of the gates being forced, the enemy rushed in
like a flood, "swinging their caps and shouting like mad-men."
Though the patriots had surrendered and thrown down their arms,
their brutal adversaries continued to " fire upon them from the para-
pets and to hew down " all whom they encountered as they hastened
to " unbolt the southern gate." No sooner is this done than the voice
of a British officer is heard demanding in stern tones : " Who com-
mands this fort.'' " " I did, sir, but you do now," is the reply of the
the American Commander, at the same time presenting his sword in
token of surrender. Seizing it, his military assassin, said to be a
Major Bromfield, or Bloomfield, without a word, plunged it up to the
hilt into the heart of his noble but too trusting foe. The attendant
soldiers with their bayonets completed the bloody deed. Thus per-
ished, in the forty-third year of his age, one of the most illustrious
martyrs of American liberty. Like scenes were being enacted in
other parts of the fort. "As the British marched in," says a recent
historian, "company after company, they shot or bayoneted every
American they saw standing." " Three platoons, each of ten or twelve
men, fired in succession into the magazine amid the confused mass of
8 The Battle of Grotoii Heights.
living men, that had fled thither for shelter, the dying and the dead,"
The only reason, it would seem, that an explosion did not take place
was the fact that the powder scattered about was too wet with human
blood to ignite. So awful was the carnage and plunder that even the
British officers could no longer endure the sight. One of them is said
to have been seen rushing about everywhere, with drawn sword,
exclaiming: "Stop! stop! in the name of heaven, stop! my soul
can't bear it! " Satiated with plunder and blood, the invaders finally
began a hasty retreat from the place they had filled with so much of
death and horror.
Stripping the dead patriots, about eighty-four in number, paroling
the most dangerously wounded, to the number of thirty-five, they drove
the remaining thirty, "most of them wounded," before them as
prisoners of war. But, brutal as they were, they shrank from leaving
them to their fate, that of being blown up with the fort (for a train of
powder had already been set from the barracks to the magazine) the
defenseless men whom they had just paroled. Gathering them to-
gether, therefore, with no gentle hand, they fling them into an ammu-
nition wagon. Fastening a chain about it, they dragged it a short
distance down the hill, and then "darting aside" allowed it to rush
madly downward with its freight of wounded and bleeding men, caring
neither whether it was dashed to pieces upon the stones by the way,
or engulfed in the river that flowed at the foot of the declivity, which,
no doubt, would have been the case but for the trunk of an apple tree
near the bottom of the descent, that proved a friendly obstacle. " For
more than an hour" the sufferers in the wagon remained helpless and
in great agony in the place where it had been arrested in its course.
They were then carried into the house of Ensign Avery — one of their
number — which was near by. (The house is still standing.) But help
was near at hand. Good Doctor Joshua Downer, with his son Avery,
was hastening to the assistance of the heroes who needed it so greatly.
In the morning he had perceived the smoke of burning New London,
and at once started from his home in Preston for the scene of conflict.
On his way to the Avery house, and possibly not far from it, he met
and bound up the wounds of several of the slightly wounded patriots,
and among them Mr. Benjamin Bill, and others. Upon the following
morning Dr. Downer was joined in his work of mercy by a band of
those noble women, of whom it is the proud wish of so many women
in our day to be called the "Daughter." These ministered to the
suffering patriots with the care and tenderness which only a woman's
hand can bestow and only a woman's heart can feel. Such is the
picture of the battle of Groton Heights. May it remain engraved
forever in our hearts !
Captain Adam Shapley, "Immortal in his Torr.b.
The Battle of Groton Heights.
Names of the Heroes who Fell at Fort Griswold
September 6th, 1781.
Collected and Alphabetically Arranged by Charles Allyn *
Lieutenant-Colonel William Ledyard, Commanding.
Captain Elijah Avery, ------- Groton
Captain Elisha Avery, ------ Groton
Lieutenant Ebenezer Avery, ----- Groton
Ensign Daniel Avery, ------ Groton
Sergeant Christopher Avery, ----- Groton
Sergeant Jasper Avery, ------ Groton
Sergeant Solomon Avery, ------ Groton
David Avery, -------- Groton
Thomas Avery, -------- Groton
Captain Samuel Allyn, - - - Ledyard - Groton
Captain Simeon Allyn, - - Ledyard - - Groton
Belton Allyn, ----- Ledyard - Groton
Benadam Allyn, - - - - Ledyard - - Groton
Nathaniel Adams, ^ - - - - - ^ - - Groton
Captain Hubbard Burrows, ------ Groton
Sergeant Ezekiel Bailey, ------ Groton
Corporal Andrew Billings, - - Ledyard - - Groton
Andrew Baker, - - - - Ledyard - Groton
John P. Babcock, - - - - - - - Groton
John Billings, -------- Preston
Samuel Billings, -------- Groton
William Bolton, ------- jSjew London
John Brown, -------- Groton
Jonathan Butler, ------- Saybrook
Lieutenant Richard Chapman, ----- New London
Sergeant Eldredge Chester, ----- Groton
Daniel Chester, -------- Groton
Jedediah Chester,^ ------- Groton
Frederic Chester,3 ------- Groton
* From his Battle of Groton Heights.
1 This name is Nathan in some accounts.
2 I find this name in the list prepared by Rufus Avery, and also that by Benadam Gallup, but not
on the monument.
3 This name is on the monument; no trace elsewhere.
lo The Battle of Groton Heights.
John Clark, - - - - - - - - - New London
Elias Coit,i .-....-- New London
Lieutenant James Comstock, . . . - . New London
William Comstock, ------- Saybrook
Philip Covin, -------- Groton
Daniel Davis, -------- Groton
Daniel Eldredge,^ ------- Groton
Jordan Freeman (colored), ----- Groton
Captain Elias Henry Halsey,3 ----- Long Island
Samuel Hill, ----- Ledyard - Groton
John Holt, Jr., -------- New London
Sergeant Rufus Hurlburt, - - Ledyard - Groton
Eliday Jones, -------- Groton
Moses Jones, ----- Ledyard - Groton
Benoni Kenson, -------- New London
Barney Kinney,4 .-.---- New London
Captain Youngs Ledyard, ------ Groton
Captain Cary Leeds, s ------ Groton
Lieutenant Joseph Lewis, - - Ledyard - - Groton
Ensign John Lester, - - - Ledyard - Groton
Daniel D. Lester,^ ------- Groton
Jonas Lester, -------- Groton
Wait Lester, ...----- Groton
Thomas Lamb, ------- Groton
Lambo Latham (colored), ------ Groton
Captain Nathan Moore, ------ Groton
Corporal Edward Mills, ------ Groton
Corporal Simeon Morgan, - - Ledyard - Groton
Thomas Miner,? - - - - Ledyard - - Groton
Joseph Moxley, - - - . Ledyard - Groton
Corporal Luke Perkins, Jr., - Ledyard - - Groton
David Palmer, -------- Groton
Elisha Perkins, _ - - - Ledj'ard - - Groton
Luke Perkins, ----- Ledyard - Groton
Asa Perkins, - - - - Ledyard - - Groton
Elnathan Perkins, - - - - Ledyard - Groton
Simeon Perkins, - - - - Ledyard - - Groton
Captain Peter Richards, ------ New London
1 On the monument slab as Ellis.
2 Wounded; carried away prisoner; returned sick, and died December nth. Not on the monu-
3 On the monument Henry Halsey.
4 On the monument Kenny
5 This man was wounded, and died December 28th. Not on the monument.
6 On monument Taniel C.
7 On the tombstone INIinard, which seems to be an error, as his descent is from Clement Miner.
The Battle of Groton Heights. 1 1
Captain Adam Shaple}^ -.-... New London
Captain Amos Stanton, - - - Ledyard - Groton
Lieutenant Enoch Stanton, ------ Stonington
Sergeant Daniel Stanton, ----- Stonington
Sergeant John Stedman, - - Led^^ard - - Groton
Sergeant Nicholas Starr, . , _ _ - Groton
Corporal Nathan Sholes, - - Led^-ard - - Groton
Thomas Starr, Jr. ------ - Groton
David Seabury, - - - . Ledyard - - Groton
Captain John Williams, ------ Groton
Lieutenant Henry Williams, - Ledyard - - Groton
Lieutenant Patric Ward, ------ Groton
Sj'lvester Walworth, ------- Groton
Joseph Wedger, - - - - Ledyard - Groton
Thomas Williams, -.---_- Stonington
Daniel Williams, ^ ------- Saybrook
John Whittlesey, - - ----- Saybrook
Stephen Whittlesey, - - - - - - - Saybrook
Christopher Woodbridge, ------ Groton
Henry Woodbridge, ------ Groton
NAMES OF THE WOUNDED.
Paroled and Left at Home.
"A particular Account of the Men that were Wounded at Fort Gris-
wold, ift the Battle with the British, on the 6th of September, 1781,-
tvho were Paroled by Captai7i Bloomfield , and Ebenezer Ledyard,
Esq., was taken as Hostage to see them forthcoming, if called for."
In the presence of Rufus Avery.
Lieutenant Parke Avery, Jr., lost one eye, -
Ensign Ebenezer Avery, in the head,
Amos Avery, in the hand, - - - -
John Daboll, Jr., in the hand, -
Ensign Charles Eldridge, knee, -
Daniel Eldridge, shot through neck and face,
Christopher Eldridge, in the face,
Samuel Edgcomb, Jr., in the hand, -
Andrew Gallop,* in the hip,
Robert Gallup,* in the body,
Sergeant Stephen Hempstead, in the body.
Corporal (Jehial) Judd, in the knee,
I Not on the monument.
* The name is in the original manuscript, but has never been given in any printed list. — A.
12 The Battle of Groto?i Heights.
Captain William Latham, in the thigh, - - - Groton
Captain Edward Latham, in the body, - - - Groton
Jonathan Latham Jr.,* body, - - - - - Groton
Christopher Latham, Jr., body, - . . . Groton
Frederick Moore, ^ body, - - - - - Groton
John Morgan, in the knee, . - . . _ Groton
Jabish Pendleton, in the hand. ----- Groton
Captain Solomon Perkins, in the face, - - - Groton
Lieutenant Obediah Perkins, in the breast, - - Groton
Ebenezer Perkins, in the face, - . . . Groton
Elisha Prior, in the arm, ------ Groton
Lieutenant William Starr, in the breast, - - - Groton
John Starr,* in the arm, - - - - - - Groton
Daniel Stanton, Jr., in the body, - - - - Stonington
William Seymour, lost his leg, ----- Hartford
Ensign Jos. Woodmansee, lost one eye, - - - Groton
Sanford Williams, in the body, ----- Groton
Asel Woodworth, in the neck, - - . . Groton
Thomas Woodworth, in the leg, ----- Groton
Zibe Woodworth, in the knee, - - - - Groton
ADDITIONAL NAMES NOT ON AVERy'S LIST, BUT IN THAT PRINTED
BY MR. HARRIS.
Samuel Stillman, arm and thigh, - - - . Saybrook
Tom Wansuc (Pequot Indian), bayonet stab in neck, Groton
If to these we add, —
Edward Stanton, in the body, ----- Stonington
who is in the list of wounded reported by the committee of the
legislature, we have exactly the number (35) reported by Stephen
Hempstead as being paroled.
The large proportion of officers among the killed and wounded is
accounted for by the fact that after six years of war, many men had
been in the army or militia and earned their titles. When the alarm
was sounded, the same spirit which had raised them to command, at
once brought them to the fort as volunteers. They were there prompt
for duty. Others were officers of privateers or merchantmen lying in
the harbor, whose fearless hearts prompted them to lend a hand in
defence of the fort.
* The name is in the original manuscript, but has never been given in any printed list. — A.
I Frederick Wave first appeared in Rathbun's Narrative, before alluded to, and was copied by Mr.
Harris. The original manuscript list of paroled wounded is that of Rufus Avery, in which this name
is Frederick Moore. Though carelessly written, anyone can see the same reading which gave us
Wave should have given us Wavgan for Morgan. Frederick Moore drew a pension. I have put him
in place of Wave, who has for a century taken the honors due to Moore, who lost a house on Groton
Bank by the fire. No trace of Wave can be found. He seems to have disappeared as completely as
his namesakes after a gale.
The Battle of Grotofi Heights. 1 3
OTHERS, BOTH UNHURT AND WOUNDED, NOT TAKEN PRISONERS.
Benjamin Bill, wounded in the ankle, - - - Groton
Joshua Bill, in the leg, ------ Groton
Benajah Holdridge, ------- Groton
Samuel W. Jacques, ------- Exeter, R. I.
Amos Lester, in the hip, ------ Groton
Gary Leeds, ^ died December 28, - - - - - Groton
William Latham, Jr., (a boy of twelve, who was allowed
to go free) -------- Groton
Henry Mason, in the leg, ------ Groton
Japheth Mason, -------- New London
James Morgan, fifteen bayonet pricks in back and
legs, --------- Groton
Thomas Mallison, ------- Groton
Joseph Moxley, Jr., in the body, ----- Groton
Elisha Morgan, -------- Groton
John Prentis, slightly wounded, ----- New London
WOUNDED ON NEW LONDON SIDE.
Samuel Booth Hempstead, shot in thigh.
Elijah Richards, died September 20.
PRISONERS CARRIED OFF.
Sergeant Rufus Avery, Walter Harris, ^
Caleb Avery, Jeremiah Harding,
Peter Avery, — Kilburn,
Samuel Abraham, Ebenezer Ledyard (hostage),
Joshua Baker, William Latham,
Reuben Bushnell, Jonathan Minor,
Captain William Coit ^ (taken on Isaac Morgan,
New London side), Isaac Rowley,
Charles Chester, Lieutenant Jabez Stow (of Fort
Nathan Darrow, Trumbull), Saybrook,
Elias Dart, Corporal Josiah Smith,
Levi Dart, Holsey Sanford,
Gilbert Edgcomb, Solomon Tift,
Daniel Eldridge, Horatio Wales,
Ebenezer Fish, Thomas Welles.
I See report to Legislature, page 138
1 Captain of the f rst company in New London to respond to the Lexington alarm. Afterward in
the naval service, in which he boasted " he was the first man to turn King George Ill's bunting
2 Mr. Walter Harris, living on Town Hill, near Fort Nonsense, in the house now occupied by his
grandson, Douglas W. Gardner, was staying by the house, and when Arnold came by he recognized
him, hailed him as a traitor, and further relieved his mind regarding his conduct, for which he was
taken prisoner and sent off with the rest.
14 The Battle of Grotou Heights.
Of the one hundred and sixty odd men who were in the fort on
that 6th of September, almost all were natives of New London and
Groton, and most fought in the sight and all within the hearing of
their own firesides. Their wives and children or fathers and mothers
heard the guns they fired and those of the enemy by which they died.
They could only imagine the bayonet stabs by which the greater por-
tion of them were murdered after the surrender. When the roar of
cannon and the rattle of musketry ceased, and they knew by the curhng
smoke of the burning town that the invaders w^ere victors, they still
hoped for humanity to the vanquished. Not till the hostile flag at the
mast-head of the British fleet disappeared in the darkness did those
friends and neighbors gather to find their loved ones dead among
heaps of slain, literall}- butchered by the barbarism of a civilized peo-
ple worse than that of the savages. How easy to picture men and
women, wives, mothers, sweethearts, fathers and brothers, examining
the faces of the sleepers to find the dearest idols of the heart cold in
death, bathed in gore, murdered by brutal enemies; led by a traitor
who in other years had known every foot of the ground so bravely
consecrated to a noble memory. Does not the reader see the crowd
of anxious ones all that long night after the slaughter, some with
lanterns, others by their hands alone, searching for their household
treasures, and, having found them, tenderly and carefully as a mother
lays her infant to sleep, carrying the .still bleeding body on the rude
country-made , bier, raised on the shoulders of old men and boys, to
the near or distant home for burial? So they went, with the AUyns
northward to their century old, famil}- graveyard b}' the river bank,
with the Perkinses and Starrs northeastward, with the Averys and
Ledyards south, all to their final resting place — burying them with
simple rites and uncovered heads among their ancestors in the almost
neglected " God's Acre," where it will be an honor for the generations
of all time to lie in ground which their valor defended, which their
freely-given lives sanctified, and which their holy dust has forever
consecrated to libert}' and patriotism.
About four hundred and fifty 3'ards southeast from the fort is the
grave of Colonel Ledyard, whose name has been given to the ceme-
tery, which was formerly known as that of Packer's Rock, from the
high ledge upon its eastern border. In 1854 the State appropriated
fifteen hundred dollars for the erection of a suitable memorial to the
martyr. His remains, with those of his wife and children, were
removed a few yards to the west, near the centre of the ground, and a
No list of the wounded and prisoners has ever been made until this list of mine, which is made up
from pension lists, official reports, petitions, newspaper obituaries, family letters, and traditions
handed down from father to son or daughter, as it chanced to be one or the other, of a nature
to be interested in the family history. — Charles Allvn.
Colonel Ledyard's nonument.
The Original Headstone at the left of Monument.
The Battle of Gi'oton Heights. 1 5
beautiful monument, cut from native granite, was erected over his
It is enclosed by an iron railing supported by posts appropriately
cast in the form of cannon. Within the inclosure are the remains of
the slab of blue slate which originally marked the grave ; it is now
nearly destroyed, and the inscription rendered illegible by the vandal-
ism of the rehc hunter. On the west face of the monument, upon the
shaft, an unsheathed sabre is carved in relief; below, upon the sub-
base, in raised letters, is the name LED YARD, and on the die is the
following inscription : —
Sons of Connecticut
Behold this monument and learn to emulate
the virtue valor and Patriotism of your ancestors.
The south face bears the following : —
ERECTED IN 1854.
By the State of Connecticut in remembrance of the painful
events that took place in this neighborhood during the war of
the Revolution ;
It commemorates the burning of New London,
the Storming of Groton Fort the Massacre of
the Garrison and the slaughter of Ledyard the
brave Commander of these posts who was slain
by the Conquerors with his own Sword.
He fell in the service of his country
Fearless of death and prepared to die.
On the north: —
Copy of the Inscription on ttie Head-Stone originally erected over the Grave
of Colonel Ledyard.
Sacred to the Memory of William Ledyard Efqr Coll
Commandant of the Garrifoned pofts of New London & Groton ;
Who after a gallant defence, was with a part of the brave Garrifon,
inhumanly Maff acred ; by britifh troops
in Fort Griswold, Sep 6 1781 Aetatis suae 43
By a judicious & Faithful difcharge of the various duties of his
Station, He rendered moft efential Service to his Country; and
Itood confeffed, the unfhaken Patriot; and intrepid Hero. He
lived, the Pattern of Magnanimity; Courtefy, and Humanity. He
fell the Victim
of ungenerous Rage and Cruelty
The Battle of Groton Heights.
REFERENCES TO FORT GRISWOLD.
A ditch leading to battery below.
Embrazine where Major Montgomery fell.
8, g. Points where the light companies of the 40th entered.
Guns that harrassed the enemy.
Ravelin that covered the gate.
A rock not cut away, which gives an entrance into the work.
From E to F round the sides D, C and B the work is fraised.
On the curtain A to the angle F was ;i baibette battery.
H is at the southeast corner.
F is at the southwest corner.
Monument View. ij
The Monument View.
North Window — Thames River; Railroad Bridge; Odd Fellows'
Home; Navy Yard; Montville; Salem; Ledyard; Brewster's
East Window — Mystic and Stonington ; Old Avery House ; Fort Hill ;
Lantern Hill; Mystic Island and Light-ship; Latimer Reef
Light-house; Wicopesset Island; Watch Hill; Block Island;
Point Judith ; Gay Head.
South Window — Ledyard Cemetery ; Fort Griswold House ; Eastern
Point; New London Light; Pequot House; Ocean Beach;
Fishers Island ; Long Island; Gardners Island; Plum Island;
Montauk Point; Bartletts Reef Light-ship; Race Rock Light;
North Dumpling Light ; Gull Island Light.
West Window — City of New London and Harbor ; Fort Trumbull ;
Water Tower ; Old Town Mill ; Cedar Grove Cemetery ; Jor-
dan ; Niantic ; Waterf ord ; Lyme ; Connecticut River ; Pleasure
Rufus Avery's Narrative
BATTLE OF FORT GRISWOLD
FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT.^
AS I belonged to the garrison at Fort Griswold when Benedict
Arnold's army came to New London and Groton, on the sixth
of September, 1781, and made their attack on both places, I
had every opportunity to know all the movements through the day
and time of the battle. I am requested to give a particular account of
the conduct of the enemy. I had charge of the garrison the night
before the enemy appeared anywhere near us, or were expected by
any one at that time to trouble us. But about three o'clock in the
morning as soon as I had daylight so as to see the fleet, it appeared a
short distance below the light-house. The fleet consisted of thirty-two
vessels in number — ships, brigs, schooners, and sloops. I immediately
sent word to Captain William Latham, who commanded the said fort
and who was not far distant. He very soon came to the fort, and saw
the enemy's fleet, and immediately sent a notice to Col. William Led-
yard, who was commander of the harbor. Fort Griswold and Fort
Trumbull. He soon arrived at the garrison, saw the fleet, then ordered
two large guns to be loaded with heavy charges of good powder, &c.
Captain William Latham took charge of one gun that was discharged
at the northeast part of the fort, and I took charge of the gun on the
west side of the fort, so as to give a " larum " to the country in the
best manner that it could be done. We discharged then regular
^ A publication purporting to be this narative has been twice printed; first by one Rathbun, in
1840, who had the effrontery to put at the head of it, " In his own words," while in the story were
many changes and additions (amounting to pages in his pamphlet), in places converting the simple
English of Mr. Avery into bombastic nonsense; Mr. Harris, accepting the " In his own words " as a
sufficient guarantee of genuineness, copied it entire in 1870.
I had the good fortune to have a friend remark that he " had read the original, and thought it had
been fixed up some," but was not quite sure, as it was " some years ago." I at once got the original
manuscript, by the kindness of its owner, and read it with the printed copy, and now, for the first
time, is the original manuscript given in print. I have taken the liberty of using the present popular
spelling, rather than the somewhat " phonetic" manner of the writer, perhaps to be made popular by
"spelling-reform advocates." — A.
Narrative of Rufiis Avery. 1 9
"larums." Two guns was the regular " larum," but the enemy under-
stood that, and they discharged a third gun similar to ours and timed
it alike, which broke our alarm, which discouraged our troops coming
to our assistance. Col. William Ledyard immediately sent out two
expresses, one from each fort, to call on every captain of a militia
company of men to hurry them in to our relief. But not many came
to our assistance. Their excuse was that they supposed it to be only
a false alarm. The discharge of the third gun by the enemy entirely
changed the alarm. It was customary, when there was a good prize
brought into the harbor, or on the receipt of any good news, to rejoice
by discharging three cannon, and this the enemy understood. They
landed eight hundred officers and men and some horses and large
guns and carriages on the beach at Eastern Point, Groton side of the
river, about eight o'clock in the morning, and on New London
side of the river below the light-house on the beach seven hundred
officers and men at the same time. The army on the Groton side was
divided into two divisions, about four hundred in each division. Col.
Aires^ took command of the division southeast of the fort, about one
hundred and thirty rods from the fort, behind a ledge of rocks. Major
Montgomery took command of his division about one hundred and
fifty rods from the fort, behind a high hill of land. The army on New
London side of the river found better and more accommodating land
for marching than on Groton side, and as soon as they got against
Fort Trumbull they separated into two divisions : one went on to the
town of New London, and plundered and set fire to the shipping and
buildings, and the other division marched directly down to Fort Trum-
bull. Capt. Shapley, who commanded the fort, saw that he was likely
to be overpowered by the enemy, spiked up the cannon, and embarked
on board his boats, which were prepared for him and his men if wanted.
But the enemy were so quick upon him that before he and his small
company could get out of gunshot in their boats a number of his men
got badly wounded. Those that were able to get to Fort Griswold
reached there, and most of them were slain. Col. Aires and Major
Montgomery had their divisions stationed about nine o'clock in the
morning. As soon as they appeared in sight we hove a number of
shot at them, but they would endeavor to disappear immediately.
About ten o'clock in the forenoon they sent their flag to demand of
Col. Ledyard the surrender of the fort. The party with the flag
approached within about forty rods of the fort, and we discharged
a musket ball before them and brought them to a stand. Col. Led-
yard called a council of war to take the minds of his fellow officers
20 Narrative of Rufus Avery.
and friends as to what was to be done. They agreed to send a flag to
meet theirs, and chose Capt. Elijah Avery, Capt. Amos Stanton, ^ and
Capt. John WilUams. They immediately met the British flag, and re-
ceived a demand to give the fort to them. Our flag soon returned
with the summons, which was to surrender the fort to them. Inquiry
was made of the council as to what must be done, and the answer was
sent to the British flag that the fort would not be given up. Their flag
went back to Col. Eyre's division, and soon returned to within about
seventy rods of the fort, when they were again met by our flag, which
brought back to Col. Ledyard the demand if they had to take the fort
by storm they should put martial law in force; that is, whom they did
not kill with balls should be put to death with sword and bayonet.
Our flag went to the British flag with Col. Ledyard's answer that he
should not give up the fort to them, let the consequence be what it
might. While the flags were passing between us we were exchanging
shots with the British at Fort Trumbull, of which they had got posses-
sion of said fort before the commencement of the battle at Fort Gris-
wold. We could heave a shot into Fore Trumbull among the enemy
without difficulty, but they could not raise a shot so high as to come
into Fort Griswold. Having obtained possession of our good powder
and shot left by Capt. Shapley in the fort, they used it against us.
About eleven o'clock in the forenoon the enemy found out what
we were determined to do. Both divisions started ; that of Col. Eyre
came on in solid column. As soon as he got on level ground we were
prepared to salute them with a gun that took in an eighteen-pound
ball, but was then loaded with two bags of grape shot. Capt. Elias
Henry Halsey directed the gun, and took aim at the enemy. He had
practiced on board of privateers, and he did his duty well. I was
present with him and others near the g^n, and when the shot struck
among the enemy it cleared a wide space in their solid column. It
was reported on good authority that about twenty men were killed
and wounded by that charge of grape shot. As soon as the enemy's
column was broken by their loss of officers and men, they scattered
and trailed their arms, and came on with a quick march and oblique
step toward the fort inclining to the west. During this time we hove
cannon and musket shot among the enemy. Col. Eyre's division came
up to the south side and west side of the fort, where he was mortally
wounded. Major Montgomery, who started with his division at the
^ Captain Stanton, a man of almost gigantic stature and herculean strength, on seeing the slaugh-
ter continued after the surrender, is said to have seized a heavy musket by the muzzle, and exclaiming,
"My God, must we die so! " sprang upon the platform on the west side of the fort, and nearly
cleared it of the enemy before he was brought down by a musket-shot. — H.
Narrative of Rufus Avery. 2 1
same time that Eyre did to come to the fort in soUd column, incUned
to the north, until they got east of the redoubt or battery, which is east
of the fort, when a large number of them came very quick into the
battery. Our officers threw a heavy charge of grape shot among them,
which destroyed a large number. They then started for the fort, a
part of them in platoons, discharging their guns as they advanced,
while some scattering officers and soldiers came round to the east and
north part of the fort. As soon as the enemy got round the fort one
RESIDENCE OF JAMES AVERY, ERECTED BY HIS ANCESTORS EIGHT GENERATIONS
BACK, 1656. DESTROYED BY FIRE.
man attempted to open the gate. He lost his life. There was hard
fighting some time before the second man made the trial to open the
gate, which he did. Our little number of one hundred and fifty-five
officers and soldiers, most of whom were volunteers when the battle
began, were soon overpowered. Then there was no block-house on
the parade, as there is now, and the enemy had every opportunity to
kill and wound almost every man in the fort. When they had over-
powered us and driven us from our stations at the breastworks of the
fort, Col. Wm. Ledyard seeing what few officers and men he had left
to do any more fighting, they quit their posts, and went on the open
parade in the fort, where the enemy had every opportunity to mas-
22 Narrative of Riifiis Avery.
sacre us ; there was about six of the enemy to one of us. The enemy
mounted the parapet seemingly all as one, swung their hats around
once, and discharged their guns, and them they did not kill with ball
they meant to kill with the bayonet. I was on the west side of the
fort, with Capt. Edward Latham and Mr. Christopher Latham, on the
platform ; had a full sight of the enemy's conduct, and within five
feet of these two men. I had at that time a ball and bayonet hole in
my coat. As soon as the enemy discharged their guns they knocked
down the two men before mentioned with the britch of their guns,
and put their bayonets into them, but did not quite kill them. By this
time Major Montgomery's division, then under the command of Capt.
Bloomfield^ (the other gates having been unbolted by one of the men),
marched in through the gates, and formed a solid column. At this
time I left my station on the west side of the fort, and went across the
south part of the parade towards the south end of the barrack. Col.
Wm. Ledyard was on the parade, marching toward the enemy under
Capt. Bloomfield, raising and lowering his sword. He was then about
six or eight feet from the British ofificer. I turned my. eyes from Led-
yard and stepped up to the door of the barrack, and saw the enemy
discharging their guns through the windows. I turned myself imme-
diately about, and the enemy had executed Col. Ledyard, in less time
than one minute after I saw him.^ The column then continued
marching toward the south end of the parade. I could do no better
than to pass across the parade before the enemy's column, as they
discharged the volleys of three platoons, the fire of which I went
through. I believe there was not less than five or six hundred men of
the enemy on the parade in the fort. They killed and wounded nearly
every man in the fort, as quick as they could, which was done in about
one minute. I expected my time to come with the rest. One mad-
looking fellow put his bayonet to my side, and swore, " bejasus, he
would skipper me." I looked him very earnestly in the face and eyes,
and asked for mercy and to spare my life. He attempted three times
to put the bayonet into me, but I must say I believe God forbade him,
for I was completely in his power, as well as others that was present
^ Since this transaction there has ever existed in the public mind great uncertainty as to -who was
the murderer of Colonel Ledyard, the odium being divided between Major Bromfield, who succeeded
Major Montgomery in command of the British troops on that occasion, and Captain Beckwith, of the
54th regiment. No person who actually witnessed the deed survived the battle,* or if any did they
left no account of it behind them; and therefore the version of the manner of Ledyard's death com-
* Mr. Harris is in error here, I believe, as I myself have heard this action described by three
people whose fathers saw the murder, and often told of it to their children (see notes on Andrew Gallup
and Caleb Avery). This being the case,, most of the ground for Mr. Harris's argument is taken away.
The argument, though ingenious, is not conclusive, since no one can by reasoning be certain what
positions would be taken in moments of such excitement. The most natural positions are those which
agree with the popularly received account, as men of military experience and education, I think, will
agree. — A.
Narrative of Rufus Avery. 23
with the enemy. The enemy at the same time massacred Lieut. Enoch
Stanton within four or five feet of me. A platoon of about ten men
marched up near where I stood, where two large outer doors to the
magazine made a space wide enough for ten men to stand in one rank.
They discharged their guns into the magazine among the dead and
wounded, and some well ones, and some they killed and wounded.
That platoon fell back, and another platoon came forward to discharge
their guns into the outer part of the magazine, where the others did-
As they made ready to fire, Capt. Bloomfield came suddenly round the
corner of the magazine, and very quickly raised his sword, exclaim-
ing: "Stop firing! You'll send us all to hell together!" Their
language was bad as well as their conduct. I was near him when he
spoke. Bloomfield knew there must be, of course, much powder scat-
tered about the magazine, and a great quantity deposited there, but I
expect the reason it did not take fire was that there was so much
human blood to put it out. They did not bayonet many after they
ceased firing their guns. I was amongst them all the time, and they
monly received as the correct one is but merely a conjecture, at the most. By this, the deed is
ascribed to the officer who received Ledyard's surrender of the fort, supposed by the greater number
to have been Major Bromfield; others at the time, and for a long time subsequent, laid the infamous
transaction to the charge of Captain feckwith, supposing him to have been the officer who met
Ledyard and demanded the surrender.
Let us consider the matter a little, and see if we be able to reconcile the known facts and strong
. probabilities in the case, with this generally received opinion. Upon the entry of the British officer
to the fort, and at his demand of who commanded it. Colonel Ledyard advanced to answer, " I did,"
etc., at the same time tendering him the hilt of his sword in token of submission. It is obvious that
in this action Colonel Ledyard must have presented the front of his person to that officer. Now, had
the latter, in taking the surrendered sword, instantly (as all accounts charge him with having done)
plunged it into him, is it not also evident that it must have entered in front and passed out at at the
back of his person? The vest and shirt worn that day by Colonel Ledyard, preserved in the Wads-
worth Athenaeum at Hartford, upon examination reveal two rough, jagged openings, one on either
side, a little before and in a line with the lower edge of the arm-holes of the vest. The larger of these
apertures is upon the left side; the difference in size between it and that on the right corresponds with
the taper of a sabre blade from hilt to point, showing conclusively that the weapon entered from the
left and passed out at the right, and that the person by whom the wound was inflicted must have
stood upon the left side of the wearer when the plunge was made. These holes are marked: that on
the left as " where the sword entered," and that on the right as " where the sword came out."— s6
marked, doubtless, by the person who presented these memorials to the society, a near relative of
Colonel Ledyard, and who considered them as the marks of the fatal wound. These are the only
marks visible upon the garment. It is a reasonable supposition that when the British officer entered
and thundered his demand he carried his drawn sword in his right hand ; for we can scarcely imagine
an officer rushing unarmed into a place of such danger and demanding a surrender. Now, in case he
did so carry his sword, he must necessarily either have sheathed, dropped, or changed it to his left
hand, in order to receive Ledyard's with his right; and this hardly seems possible. We must there-
fore suppose that he received it in his left hand ; and if so, does it not appear as most unreasonable that,
having a sword in either hand, he would have used that in his left with which to make the thrust ?
Yet he must have done so if it was by his own sword VhsX Ledyard met his death. Neither does it
appear possible that in the heat and excitement of the engagement, coolly calculating the chances,
he would have passed round to the left of his victim for the purpose of making the wound more surely
fatal, — the only reason for which we can suppose it to have been done.
We have seen from the position occupied by the parties that the wound, if inflicted instantly on the
surrender of the sword, must have been given in front ; the marks in the vest conclusively prove it to
have been given in the left side. We have seen the awkward position of the officer with his own
sword in his right and Ledyard's in his left hand, — a situation almost precluding the idea of his
24 Narrative of Rufus Avery.
very soon left off killing, and then went stripping and robbing the
dead and wounded, and also those that were not wounded. They then
ordered each one of us to march out to the northeast part of the
parade, and them that could not go themselves, from their wounds,
were to be helped by those that were well. Mr. Samuel Edgecomb,
Jr., and myself were ordered to take Ensign Charles Eldredge out of
the magazine. He was a very large, heavy man, who had been shot
in the knee joint. We poor prisoners were taken out on the parade,
about two rods from the gates of the fort, and every man ordered to
sit down immediately, and if not obeyed at once the bayonet was to
be put into him. The battle was then finished, which was about one
o'clock in the afternoon ; the enemy began to take care of their dead
and wounded. The first thing they did was take off six of the outer
doors of the barracks and, with four men to a door, would bring in
one man at a time on each door. There were twenty-four men at work
about two hours as fast as they could walk and deposit them on the
west side of the parade in the fort, where it was the most comfortable
place they could find, while we poor prisoners were put in the most
uncomfortable spot on the parade, in the fort, where the sun shown down
so very warm on us that it made us feel more unhappy. Some of the
wounded men lay dying. Capt. Youngs Ledyard and Capt. Nathan
Moore were among the number. I sat on the ground with the other
prisoners, and these two fine men lay on the ground by me, Ledyard's
making the stab with the latter. We have also seen that no person who witnessed it left any testi-
mony regarding the affair, and that all that the commonly received version of it is based upon is really
but the surmises of a people wrought almost to desperation by their losses and wrongs, who in the first
moments of exasperation would naturally attribute an act of such enormity to the commander as the
representative of the enemy. Now, after considering all these facts and probabilities, is it not a more
rational conclusion that the wound was given by a by-standing ofiScer — a subaltern or aid, perhaps —
than that it was inflicted by the officer to whom Ledyard offered his sword? It certainly so appears
to us. But in case that, despite all these reasons for believing that officer innocent of the crime, he
was really guilty, of the two to whom it has been charged, against but one is there any evidence to
sustain the charge, and this is purely circumstantial. Captain Beckwith acted as aid to Lieutenant-
Colonel Eyre on the day of the battle, and was the officer sent to demand the surrender of the fort.
He, with Lord Dalrymple, was sent by Arnold as bearer of dispatches to Sir henry Clinton, and in
all probability furnished the account of the battle for Rivington's Gazette, which appeared in that
paper before the remainder of the expedition had reached New York. In this account, in which
the details of the conference regarding the surrender are given with a minuteness with which only an
eye-witness could give them, personal malice toward Colonel Ledyard is a salient feature, which the
most unobservant reader cannot fail to notice. The writer appears to have considered the flag and
the officers bearing it insulted in the conference; and in his references to the garrison, and to Colonel
Ledyard in particular, he expresses himself in the most contemptuous and bitter terms.
If he was the officer to whom the surrender was made, it is possible that on beholding the man who
he fancied had insulted him he allowed his rage to supplant his manhood, and, forgetting his military
honor, plunged his sword into his vanquished enemy. From Miss Caulkins' History of New
London we learn that he afterward passed through New York on his way to Barbadoes. While
there he was charged by the newspapers of that city with the murder, which he indignantly denied.
A correspondence was opened between him and a relative of Colonel Ledyard in reference to the
question, when he produced documents which exculpated him. In view of this, however, as between
him and Major Bromfield, circumstantial evidence is strongly in favor of the latter, who doubt-
less could have furnished as full documentary proof of his innocence, had he been called upon for it. — H.
Narrative of Rufus Avery. ' 25
head on one thigh, and Moore's head on the other. They both died
that night. While I was with them they had their reason, and re-
quested water for their thirst. I asked of the enemy water for my
brother prisoners to drink, as well as for myself. They granted my
request. The well was within two rods of us. I watched them when
they brought the water to me for us to drink, to see that they did not
put anything in it to poison us ; for they had repeatedly said that we
must all die before the sun went down, because that was in the sum-
mons sent to Col. Wm. Ledyard that those who were not killed by
musket-ball should die by the sword and bayonet. But happy for us
that was alive they did not offer to hurt any one man, and they said
that was a falsehood. They kept us on the ground in the garrison
about two hours after the battle was over, and then ordered every man
who was able to walk to rise up immediately. Sentries with loaded
guns and fixed bayonets were placed around us, with orders to shoot
or bayonet any one that did not obey the officer. I was obliged to
leave two dying men that were resting on me as they lay on the ground
beside me. We marched down on the bank by the river so as to be
ready to embark to go on board the British fleet. Then, about thirty
of us, every man was ordered to set down, and, as at other times, was
surrounded with sentries. Capt. Broomfield came and took the names
of the wounded that were able to march down with us. I sat where I
had a fair view of the enemy's conduct. The sun was about half an
hour high, and they were setting fire to the buildings, and bringing
down plunder by us as were placed at the lower part of the village.
At the same time a large number of the enemy between us and the
fort were getting ready to quit the ground. They loaded up our very
large, heavy ammunition wagon that belonged to the fort with the
wounded men who could not go themselves, and about twenty of the
soldiers drew it out of the fort and brought it to the brow of the hill
on which the fort stood, which was very steep and about thirty rods
distance. As soon as the enemy began to move the wagon down the
hill, they began to put themselves in a position to hold it back with all
their power. They found it too much for them to do ; they released
their hold on the wagon as quick as possible to prevent being run over
by the wagon themselves, leaving it to run down the hill with great
speed. It ran about twelve rods to a large apple tree stump, and both
shafts of the wagon struck very hard, and hurt the wounded men very
much. A great number of the enemy were near where the wagon
stopped, and they immediately ran to the wagon and brought that and
the wounded men by where we prisoners were sitting on the ground,
and deposited them in the house near by, that belonged to Ensign
Ebenezer Avery, who was one that was in the wagon when it started
down the hiil. Some of the enemy had set fire to the house before
the wounded prisoners were placed in it, but the fire was put out by
26 Narrative of Rufus Avery.
some of the others. Capt. Bloomfield paroled the wounded men who
were left, and took Ebenezer Ledyard, Esq., as a hostage for them left
on parol, to see them forthcoming if called for. By this time the
enemy's boats came up to the shore near where we prisoners were.
The officer spoke with a doleful sound: "Come, you rebels, go on
board the boats." That touched my feelings more than anything that
passed for the day. I realized that I should have to leave my dear
wife and my good neighbors and friends, and also my native land, and
suffer with cold and hunger, as I was in the power of a cruel foe or
enemy ; but I was still in the hands of a higher power, which was a
great consolation to me, for I am sensible that God has preserved my
life through many hardships, and when in danger of losing my life
many times in the wars, etc. When we prisoners had marched down
to the shore, the boats that were to receive us on board were kept off
where the water was about knee-deep, and we were marched down in
two ranks, one on each side of the boat. The officer that had the
command very harshly ordered us to "get onboard immediately."
There were about twelve prisoners in a boat. They rowed us down
to an armed sloop, commanded by one Capt Thomas, as they called
him, a refugee tory, who lay with his vessel within the fleet. As soon
as they put us on broad the sloop they shut us down in the hold of the
vessel, where they had a fire for cooking, which made it very hot and
smoky. They stopped up the hatchway, making it so close that we
had no air to breathe. We begged that they would spare our lives,
and they gave us some relief by opening the hatchway, and letting one
or two of us come on deck at a time during the night, but with sentries
with guns and bayonets to watch us. They did not give us anything
to eat or drink for about twenty-four hours, and then only a mess
made of hogs' brains that they caught on Groton bank, with other
plunder. While we were on board Thomas's sloop we had nothing to
eat or drink that we could hardly swallow. This continued about
three days. There were a number of weapons of war where we were
placed in the vessel, and some of the prisoners whispered together
that there was an opportunity to make a prize of the sloop. This
somehow got to the officers' ears, and they immediately shut us all
down in the hold of the vessel. I felt very certain that we would have
to suffer, for they seemed so enraged that they appeared to have an
intention to massacre us all. They soon got ready, and began to call
us up on deck one by one. As I came up they tied my hands behind
me with strong rope yarns, binding them together, and winding the
rope yarn so hard as to nearly bring my shoulder blade to touch each
other. Then they had a boat come from a fourteen-gun brig com-
manded by a Capt. Steel, by name and nature. I was ordered to get
over the side of the sloop without the use of my hands, the bulwarks
above the deck being all of three feet in height, and then I had to fall
The Gardner Homestead, New London.
The House Known as the Gardner Homestead is a Relic of a Past Generation. It was re-built
after the original model by the Late Owner, Douglass W. Gardner, in 1870. Several
Relics of Historic Interest Connected with this Old Place are a Belt
Buckle, Bearing the Initials of King George and the British
Coat of Arms, and Indian Arrow Heads and
Banner Stones used by the Various
Tribes as Signals.
View of New London Harbor on Regatta Day.
Showing the Steamer " City, of ^Worcester," of the Norwich Line.
Narrative of Rufiis Avery. I'j
into the boat that was to carry us to the brig, and was made to lay
down under the seats on which the rowers sat, as though we were
brutes about to be slaughtered. After we were put on board the
brig, we were ordered to stand in one rank beside the gunwale of the
vessel, and a spar was placed before us leaving about one foot space
for each man to stand in, with a sentry to nearly every man, with
orders to bayonet or shoot any one that offered to move. They kept
us in that situation about two hours in the rain and cold with very
thin clothing upon us, and then gave us liberty to go about the main
deck, and were obliged to lie on the wet deck without anything to eat
or drink for supper. We were on board the brig about four days, and
then put on board a ship commanded by Capt. Scott, who appeared
very friendly to we prisoners. He took me on the quarter-deck with
him. He was apparently about sixty years of age, and I remained
with him until I was exchanged. Captain Nathaniel Shaw came down
to New York with the American flag after me, and four young men
that were made prisoners with me that belonged to the garrison at
Fort Griswold, and during the time of the battle behaved like good
soldiers. General Mifflin came with the British flag to meet the
American flag. I sailed with him about twenty miles in the flag-boat.
He asked me some questions, but I gave him little or no information,
and told him I was very sorry that they came to destroy so many good
men, and cause so much distress to families and desolation in the
community, by burning so much valuable property, and further, that I
did not believe that they would gain any honor by it. He replied, we
might thank our own countrymen for it. I told him that / should not.
I then turned to the General and said, will you answer me a few ques-
tions? "As many as you please, Sir," was the reply. I made many
inquiries, and asked him how many of the enemy were missing that
were engaged in the attack on Groton and New London, remarking,
" Sir, I expect you can tell as you are the Commissary of the British
Army." He said, "I find in the returns that there were two hundred
and twenty odd missing, but I don't know what became of them."
Here I conclude the foregoing particular account from my own per-
sonal knowledge of the British attack and capture of Fort Griswold,
and their brutal conduct at New London and Groton, and also of their
barbarous treatment of the prisoners who fell into their hands.
Attest: RUFUS AVERY,
Orderly Sergeant, under Captain William Latham, who commanded
the Matross Company at Fort Griswold, Sept. 6, 1781.
Narrative of Avery Downer, M. D.,
Assistant Surgeon of the Eighth Regiment of Connecticut Militia.i
ON the morning of the 6th of September, 1781, a British fleet of
twenty-four sail was discovered entering the harbor of New
London. Arnold, the commander, being a native of Norwich,
and well acquainted with the river and harbor, which was of much
service to him, and also many tories and traitors of equal infamy with
himself accompanied him, which is evidence that traitors indulge more
revenge than a common enemy.
I performed militia military duty as rank and file, by detachment
from my company and regiment at Fort Griswold, a number of times
during the summer of 1779. In 1781 I served as an assistant surgeon
of the 8th regiment of Connecticut militia, including Fort Griswold
in its limits. I well remember the morning of the alarm, two guns
from the fort in a given time was the alarm. This the enemy well
understood, and they fired a third, by which we in Preston were
deceived, being fourteen miles distant. Doctor Joshua Downer, my
father, and surgeon of the said 8th regiment, said to me and others in
the morning that the firing must be an alarm ; but it was doubted,
until the smoke of New London appeared like a cloud, which I well
remember. My father immediately started for the fort and ordered
me to follow him.
On his arrival near the meeting-house he met Benjamin Bill and
others who had escaped from the enemy slightly wounded. He
dressed their wounds, and proceeded to the house of James Bailey,
where he found Charles Eldridge wounded in the knee. He dressed
him and proceeded, by orders from the field officers of his regiment,
to the house of Ebenezer Avery. The surviving British commander,
Bloomfield, had ordered all the wounded to be collected on the bank
of the river near the house. All that were able to go to New York
were sent down to the shipping; the remainder were paroled and left.
Soon after the enemy were gone my father and Doctor Prentiss
went into the house and took charge of forty wounded men. I got to
^ This narrative was first prepared for use as an address on September 6, 1849, but was not used,
the attendance being so small on account of a rain storm. — A.
Narrative of Avery Downer, M. D. 29
their assistance at about twelve o'clock at night. Capt. Youngs
Ledyard and one more died before morning. By daylight all were
taken care of, and we with others went into the fort. When we came
to Colonel Ledyard, the friend and neighbor of Doctor Prentiss, he
exclaimed, " Oh, my God, I cannot endure this!"
Our dead were by the enemy mostly left on the parade in front of
the barracks; their dead they buried in the ditch, of a triangular
work, made to cover the gate. Major Montgomery they buried on the
right of the gate as we pass out, which I well remember.^ According
to Arnold's dispatches to His Excellency Sir Henry Clinton, dated
Plum Island, September 8th, 1781, it appears that the forces which he
sent on the Groton side of the river consisted of the 40th and 54th
British regiments, and the 3d battalion of New Jersey volunteers, with
a detachment of Yaggers and artillery, all under the command of
Arnold landed his division on the New London side of the river,
and was informed by friends that Fort Griswold contained only about
twenty or thirty men. In this his good friends deceived him, for in
his dispatches he says that the defence was so obstinate that he sent
an officer to countermand his order for assault just as the fort was
carried. Fort Trumbull, on the New London side of the river, was
little more than a water battery open from behind, and the enemy
coming in that direction the men spiked their guns and crossed the
river and went into Fort Griswold.
On the approach of the British the commander sent a Captain
Beckwith, a Jersey refugee, to demand a surrender of the fort. Colonel
Ledyard ordered a shot fired in front, which stopped the flag. He
then sent Captain Amos Stanton and Captain Shapley with his flag ;
the demand of Beckwith was refused and the flags returned.
Eyre and Montgomery then advanced their columns, and the
attack commenced on three sides of the fort at the same time.
In about forty minutes the assailants entered the fort. According
^ The Hon. J. P. C. Mather relates that some years since, during his official residence in Hart-
ford — Colonel Samuel Green, son and successor of Timothy Green, publisher of Connecticut Gazette
in 1781, related to him that some years after the battle an Irish gentleman came to New London
selling a patent, or appliance connected with printing. After disposing of that business, at his
request, Colonel Green took him to the scene of the battle on Groton Heights, where he sought out a
survivor of the fight, from whom he learned of the exact place of Major Montgomery's burial; and
explained that he came from the same town as the Major, whose sisters, still living, had charged
him, if his travels in America brought him near the place of their brother's death, to find his grave
and if possible procure his skull and bring it home to be buried within the family circle in the old
With the assistance of the Colonel and the survivor he obtained the sought for relic and departed
well pleased with the result of his visit. After the above was written, in an interview with a daughter
of one of the survivors, she volunteered the same information as occurring within her own knowledge.
Though not quite so full, as to the interested parties, her facts agreed with the above. — A.
30 Narrative of Avery Downer, M. D.
to Arnold's dispatches, before referred to, as published in Green's
paper of • New London, (Connecticut Gazette),. it appears that his
loss was : —
I Major, I Lieutenant-Colonel,
1 Captain, 3 Captains,
2 Sergeants, ' 2 Lieutenants,
44 Rank and File. 2 Ensigns,
Since died of wounds, 3 Sergeants,
I Captain, 2 Drummers,
I Lieutenant, 127 Rank and File.
Total killed and died of wounds, 51. Total wounded, deducting
three since died of wounds, 137.
The American loss was, killed, 84; wounded, 40.
Stephen Hempstead, one of the wounded survivors of the action,
went to the State of Missouri, near St. Louis, in 1811. He published
there a narrative of the battle on Groton Heights — correct in some
things and very incorrect in others — and particularly so in the case of
Colonel Nathan Gallup. In his narrative he says : " But a militia
colonel was in the fort, and promised Colonel Ledyard that if he
would hold out he would reinforce him in fifteen minutes with two or
three hundred men. Colonel Ledyard agreed to send back a defiance
upon the most solemn assurance of immediate succor. For this
purpose Colonel started, his men being then in sight ; but he
was no more seen, nor did he even attempt a diversion in our favor."
Almost every person knew that Colonel Nathan Gallup was meant.
He was at that time lieutenant-colonel of the 8th regiment of Con-
The true facts in the case are these : Colonel Benadam Gallup
was in the fort previous to the action. Colonel I,edyard requested
him to go back as far as Captain Belton's and urge on the men, but
before he had time to return the enemy were so near that he could
not re-enter the fort.^
In 1782 Colonel McClellan, of Woodstock, was commander of
New London harbor. At that time a court-martial was held for the
trial of officers. Colonel Nathan Gallup came before said court as a
■■ Colonel Benadam Gallup, an older brother of Colonel Nathan Gallup, was an old man, of
prominence in the town, but had no military ofifice at the time, his title being acquired in the time of
the French War.
Colonel Nathan was court-martialed and acquitted, but Benedam, not being of the military, had
no tribunal but that of popular opinion, which unfortunately for him was in need of a victim, and by
some mischance he became the target for abuse, as responsible for the lack of a diversion in favor of
the garrison, as any old resident of Groton will remember.
Narrative of Avery Dow7ier, M. D 3 1
prisoner, under six specific charges, from the whole of which he was
acquitted with honor and his certificate of acquittal signed by all the
officers of the court, viz., the following:
Roger Newberry, of Hartford County, President.
Hezekiah Bissel, of Windham, Judge Advocate.
Joshua Downer, Surgeon.
Avery Downer, Assistant Surgeon.
Medical Staff of said 8th regiment of Connecticut Militia.
When I look over the names inscribed on the tablets of the mon-
ument erected as a memorial of their heroism, language fails me to
express my feelings. With many of them I was well acquainted,
particularly with Captain Amos Staunton and his lieutenant, Henry
Williams, both natives of Groton, and at that time home on furloughs
from the army.
They went into the conflict as volunteers, left their wives and
children and everything near and dear to them, in defending the
rights of their country. Can we and shall we, their descendants, pass
over the memory of such patriotic men, and their invincible courage
and fortitude be forgotten ? No ; let their heroism and valor be
engraved on the tablets of our hearts and all that may follow us, and
endure as long as the sun and the moon shall light the day and the
This narrative is this day finished with my own hand. I am 88
years and 5 months old.
Preston, April 17th, 1851.
COLONEL WILLIAM LEDYARD.
William Ledyard, the son of Isaac and Elizabeth (Saltonstall)
Ledyard, was born in Groton, Conn., in the old Ledyard homestead,
near the site of the monument that calls the traveler to mark the spot
where was performed one of the most inhuman and disgraceful acts
ever known in civilized or barbarous warfare. Much of tradition has
been circulated concerning this man, who by his tragic death became
the property of the nation and one of the most distinguished heroes
of the revolution. He was a man of fine form, good education for
the times, unassuming in his manners, possessed of great executive
ability, and could be depended upon in cases of emergency. These
traits of character naturally brought him to the surface, and the peo-
ple by intuition sought him out for prominent usefulness in religious,
civil, and military life — and he never failed in the church, the state,
and the field. He married Miss Anna Williams, daughter of
Nathaniel and Amey (Hewitt) Williams of Stonington, by whom he
had nine children, seven surviving him, one of whom was only ten
days old on the day of the slaughter.^ He was named Charles, and
died in 1789, a few hours before his mother, and by her special
request was buried in her arms.
The edict of Parliament to close the port of Boston aroused gen-
eral indignation, protest and sympathy. Groton was not behind, and,
in a public meeting to consider the issue, June 20, 1774, WiUiam
Ledyard was chosen the first member of a committee of correspon-
dence, with a view to some united effort. November 22, 1775, orders
were issued to erect Fort Griswold, and Julys, 1776, he was appointed
captain of a company of artillery and commander of the fort. In
March, 1778, his command was extended to cover New London,
Groton and Stonington, with the rank of major ; and under his direc-
tion the works were repaired and additional batteries erected. July
5, 1779, the whole coast in this section was stirred with the expecta-
tion of an attack, but so well were they prepared under his direction
that the enemy turned away and made New Haven the objective
^ Mrs. Ledyard, with her babe, was taken early in the morning, on her bed, aboard a barge, and
sent up the Thames River, to be out of reach of harm. — A.
Colonel William Ledyard. 33
September 6, 1781, early in the morning, it was noticed that the
enemy were bearing down on New London harbor with thirty-two
sail. Signal guns were fired to give the alarm, but the traitor was on
board one ship, and the report of another gun misled the people in
the surrounding country. But Colonel Ledyard lost no time in dis-
patching messengers to Governor Trumbull at Lebarxon, and to the
various military companies near at hand, and improved every moment
for the disposition of his few defenders, planning every move, and as
far as possible preparing for every emergency, and did all he could to
protect New London. He stood by the shore, passed some words of
cheer to the anxious crowd, and stepping into the boat to cross the
ferry, he bade them good morning, with this remark, " If I must lose
honor or life today you who know me best can tell which it will be."
With a majestic and elastic step he hurried to his command. His
presence and his buoyant spirit inspired the little untrained garrison
with hope and courage, and the gallant defence they made rendered
them immortal in a struggle with overpowering numbers of thoroughly
disciplined and experienced soldiers. He seemed ubiquitous, and
cheered and directed the defenders at every point. History has
assured to them and to him the just praise of an unparalleled struggle
and an unexcelled exhibition of valor and courage. When the
assailants had effected an entrance in spite of the efforts of his unsup-
ported force, he could only take the last resort of military necessity,
and when asked who commanded the fort, reply, "I did, but you do
now," and, turning his sword, give it to the officer, who, with the fury
of a demon, plunged it into his heart, causing instant death ;i which
was followed by a carnage that history blushes to record. The vest
and shirt he wore on that fatal day are preserved among other sacred
relics in the Athenaum at Hartford, and the cruel rents made by his
own sword in the hands of the victor still speak in eternal condemna-
tion of the wretch who thus murdered one of the noblest specimens of
the human race. Many were the distinguished dead that were left
in that fort, but none wore a calmer or more serene face than that of
Upon him had fallen the duty of maintaining liberty, and he did
it nobly to the end. He suffered the loss of all things, even his life, for
his country, and the man who for personal ambition or selfish ends
preys on the national interest is guilty of a crime equal in character to
the act of that infamous English officer.
J. L. D.
''■ A. Gallup, H. Sanford, C. Avery and J. Mason, of the defending garrison, speak of witnessing
34 Mother Bailey.
In connection with the events that characterized the attack and
heroic defence and final overpowering and massacre of the brave
patriots that gave their lives for the protection of their homes and the
cause of liberty, the name of "Mother Bailey" will ever stand promi-
nent as a warm-hearted patriot and intense hater of British oppression.
At the time of the attack on the fort and the barbarous treatment of
its noble defenders after their surrender, Anna Warner, then a maiden
of 23 summers, early an orphan, adopted by her uncle, Edward Mills,
resided with his family in a little farmhouse surrounded by woods
about three miles east of the village of Groton Bank, near what is
called Candlewood Hill. Early feeling the spirit of '76 she grew up
under influences calculated to stimulate her ardor in the cause of
liberty, and learned to hate most cordially the enemies and invaders
of her country, and often wished "she were a man that she might
have an opportunity of taking an active part in its defence." Her
uncle, Edward Mills, was one of the little band of volunteers that on
the morning of Sept. 6th early hurried to the aid of the garrison.
During the day and at its close no particulars of the result of the
battle had reached the remote home of the Mills family. The night
passed and no tidings had beenreceived by his almost distracted wife
as to his fate. Anna, after early performing the out-door services of
the farm, clad in the simple costume of the time, hurried to the fort,
three miles distant, to obtain intelligence of her relative. She found
him wounded, bleeding, and nearly insensible, lying on the bare floor
of a neighboring house where the wounded had been conveyed. As
soon as he recognized her he commenced moaning for his wife and
children. Anna hurried back to the family with the sad intelligence,
and immediately saddled the family horse, on which she placed the
mother with one of the older children, and taking the youngest, the
babe, in her arms, on foot herself, returned to the dying father, never
resting on her errand of mercy until she laid the child upon his
bosom. This was the noble part which this devoted maiden took in
the history of that eventful day.
After peace was established she married Elijah Bailey, who after-
ward was appointed postmaster at Groton Bank, which office he
continued to hold under every administration forty years, occupying
the fine old mansion now owned and occupied by Paymaster Harris,
pleasantly situated on the corner of the old road to Stonington.
It was while residing here with her husband, thirt}'-one years
afterwards, in June, 1813, that the famous petticoat incident occurred
that made our heroine renowned throughout the country. Decatur
and his little fleet of three vessels were closely blockaded by Com-
Mother Bailey. 35
modore Hardy and his squadron, then in full view in Fisher's Island
Sound. Marauding parties from the blockading fleet were making
landings from time to time along the coast, and an attack of more
formidable nature was feared, and from the former event in 1781, such
an attempt at landing was expected. Alarms were frequent, and on
one occasion when the forts and town were threatened, Major Simeon
Smith, of New London, with a company of volunteers hurried to rein-
force the garrison, but found it deficient in a very important article of
ammunition — namely, flannel for cartridges. Search was instantly
made throughout the village for a supply. From the apprehension of
another enactment of the scenes of 1781, the inhabitants had removed
nearly all their beds, bedding, etc., and flannel or blankets could not
be obtained. An appeal was made to Mrs. Bailey, as she was crossing
the street to a house of a neighbor. She had already disposed of her
blankets, but quick as thought she passed her hand under her skirt,
and, unloosing the band of her flannel petticoat, dropped it gracefully
at her feet and handed it to the officer. It is perhaps unnecessary to
repeat the exact vigorous expression she used as she presented the
garment, but the cordial wish and hope of the giver was that the aim
might be sure and the execution thorough on the first Englishman
that could be reached. The garment was conveyed to the fort and its
story repeated to the garrison, and with loud huzzas for " Mother
Bailey" it was raised on a pike-staif, with the remark that no better
banner was needed to stimulate to deeds of heroism.
"The Martial Petticoat" was lauded throughout the land, and
was the theme of sober prose aid patriotic poesy, of story and of
song, and is still remembered and will be by the patriots of future
time. Its heroine was honored with the personal visits of one or more
of our presidents, by statesmen and historians, and many noted per-
sonages of the past generation. Always buoyant and animated in her
nature and disposition, even in her old age, she was a kind neighbor,
a warm friend, and always ready to assist the needy, or in person to
relieve the wants of the poor and distressed. She died January 10,
T851, at the age of ninety-two, from her clothes taking fire from a
stove near which she was sitting. Cherished be her memory. —
W. H. S.^
^ The above sketch of " Mother Bailey" is from the writer's actual knowledge, who resided some
years almost adjacent to her dwelling, and as a frequent inmate of her household, heard the rehearsal
and repetition of the facts above stated from her own lips from time to time for more than a quarter
of a century. He can vouch for their correctness, although somewhat different from occasional
statements that have beea made in many of the newspaper articles that have from time to time ap-
peared.— W. H. S.
Poem of Leonard Woolsey Bacon,
Delivered on the occasion of the Centennial Celebration,
September 6th, i88i.
The word went forth from the throne : i
'■'■ Desolate ! Desolate !
Smite, burn, destroy, till their woes shall atone
For the ivoe and shame of the State !
They have shamed the arms of their king ;
They have flotUed the terms we bting ;
High time that vengeance should have full szving
Vver small and great.
''''Reap down their crops with your swords !
Harry ! Ravage !
Hound on the rage of your hireling hordes,
Hessian and savage !
Of our grace we have offered them oft.
Fair terms of submission ;
They have scorned our words and scoffed
At reserve and condition.
They are reaching out hattds to Frattce ;
They welcome our foe's advance ;
Go, Clinton, dance those rebels a dance.
So the blaze .of Fairfield flushed the sky
New Haven's smoke went rolling high ;
Far Norwalk cried with a bitter cry;
And the sons of the Puritan pioneers
Saw the toil and thrift of a hundred years
Spoiled in an hour.
An answering flame
Blazed back from patriot hearts and true
And scorched with a terrible wrath and shame
The tory and traitor crew.
The Governor's face grew sad,
In his store on Lebanon hill,
He reckoned the men he had ;
He counted the forts to fill;
He traced on the map the ground
By river, and harbor, and coast, —
"Ah, where shall the men and the guns be found
Lest the State be lost ?"
I That the scenes of destruction and pillage which ended at New London and Groton were in pur-
suance of a deliberate policy is seen in the proclamation to the colonies in 1778, and the instructions of
Lord George Germain to Sir Henry Clinton in 1779. " Keep the coasts of the enemy constantly
alarmed. Destroy their ships and magazines," &c., &c. — L. W. B.
Poem of Leonard Woolsey Bacon . , 37
The brave State's sons were gone ;
On many a field they lay ;
They were following Washington,
Afar down Yorktown way ;
The men and the weapons failed,
They were gone with our free good-will ;
But Jonathan Trumbull never quailed.
In his store on Lebanon hill.
There was New London fort,
And the fort on Groton Height,
And the rich and crowded port ;
But where were the men to fight ?
Might it not be we had erred
To care for our homes so ill
Nay, never a word of such grudge was heard
On Lebanon hill.
Remember, citizens, and
If ever the ill thought comes
To reck less of the broad, great land,
And more of your own small homes.
Think of your father's dust ;
Think of their brave good-will,
And the Puritan Governor's toil and trust
On Lebanon hill.
Well, at last drew on the day.
Dark with ill omen,
Off the mouth of the bay —
Flapping their wings in the gray,
Like carrion birds — they lay
The ships of the foeman.
" To talk of defense were wild ;
We were plundered, burned, beaten, defiled,
They spared not the old, nor the sick, nor the child.
Nor the woman ! "
Not so, spake Ledyard, brave soul.
Our noble commander.
O History, point, on your roll.
To a nobler or grander.
He stepped from his farm-house door,
A hero like those of yore.
Oh ! fair was the look of grace that he wore
And of candor!
38 Poe7n of Leonard Woolsey Bacon.
Now briskly he spoke to his troops :
Not a sigh, not a frown ;
No thought or of fears or of hopes,
But of honor and duty alone ;
No question of gain or loss.
Only Home and the Righteous Cause.
So he signalled the handfull of gunners across
From the battery under the town.
Few, few, in the big redoubt,
The sons of the Puritans stood,
And over the parapet wall looked out
Beyond the fringe of the wood ;
Saw the enemy's blood-red lines uncoil
And wind out snake-like over the soil ;
Heard the shrill fifes, piping scorn ;
Saw the steel flash back the morn.
And the cruel cross before them borne —
The cross in a field of blood ; —
Looked townward over the bay ;
Along the country roads
Saw women and children running away
With bits of their household goods :
Saw the red-coats and Hessians
Dragging through dust and mire
The spoil of their poor possessions ;
And at last they saw — the fire !
And the Colonel, with glass in hand.
Saw the hatefulest sight of all :
As the burying-ground he scanned.
High over its terrace wall.
He saw that nameless traitor stand
On the Winthrops' tomb, i to give command
For the deeds that his own black heart had planned.
In its bitterness and gall.
Did the stones stir under his tread ?
Did a cry break forth from the dead ?
Did the Winthrops' dust rise up.
To fling that sacrilege off the bed,
Where it slept in a Christian hope ?
I The tradition of Arnold's standing during the fight on the tomb of the Winthrops is demon-
strably unhistorical, but not therefore unpoetical.
Pocfn of Leonard Woolsey Bacon. 39
Was it a voice from the tomb ?
Was it these scenes of his youtli
That crowded that shameless brow with gloom ?
That softened his heart to ruth ?
What moved the mind of the nameless wretch,
To send bis orders across to fetch
The regiments back?
'Twas too late. The terrible fight
Had been fought and lost —
The brave, brave fight for the Right,
Here upon Groton Height.
And O the cost !
Men came from the smouldering town ;
From the woods and the hills came down,
When the enemy had crossed ;
And here, in the autumn weather,
Lay the dead, all tumbled together,
Stripped and mangled and tossed.
The gray-haired men and the boys were seen
Where they poured their blood on the trampled green.
And quenched the train to the magazine.
And 'mid the dead hush, faint groans
Were heard from far down the road, —
Groans of strong men in anguish, —
Where the horrible wagon-load,
Heaped with wounds and with broken bones.
Had been plunged down over the pitiless stones.
And they brutally left our gallant ones
Two-score widows of Groton town
Walked 'mid the corpses up and down ;
Turned the dead faces up to the light,
Calling, calling into the night ;
Listening for word or voice
From husband, or father, or boys ;
Over the torn sod, reeking
With the blood of Groton Height.
And there by the sally-port.
Where the foe had entered the fort.
Lay Ledyard, gallant knight,
His bosom gored
By his own brave sword.
And his hero-blood on the ground outpoured
For the Right.
Descriptions of Illustrations.
OLD TOWN MILL.
New London when it was originally settled was an agricultural place and
a mill to grind the corn was a necessity that soon manifested itself. A town
meeting was called to consider the matter on November lo, 1650. The fol-
lowing persons were present: Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Parke, Jonathan Brewster,
Robert Hempstead, William Nichols, John Gager, Thomas Stanton, William
Bartlett, Peter Blatchford, William Comstock, WilUam Taylor, Mr. Blinman,
Samuel Lathrop, John Lewis and William Morton. The town records state
that it was decided that the " making of the dam and heavy work belonging to
the mill " should be at the public expenses. Six men were selected to per-
form this work which was to be made substantial and sufficient, and six others
were assigned the task of rating the town that the expense might be defrayed.
It was agreed that " no person shall set up any other milne to grind corn
for the town of Pequett within the limits of the town, either for the present
nor the future, so long as Mr. John Winthrop or his heirs, do uphold a milne
to grind the town corn."'
Mr. Winthrop lived in a stone house near the head of the cove south,
where the Winthrop school is now located. When he was elected governor
he removed to Hartford and leased the mill to James Rogers about the year
165 . A complaint was soon after made to the general court that the people were
not " duely served in the grinding of their corn" and that body ordered Mr.
Rogers to give daily attendance at the mill that no more disturbance of the
peace might arise from this cause.
Shortly after this Mr. Rogers and Mr. Winthrop had a long law suit re-
garding the mill, during which the governor's sons, Fitz John and Wait Still,
attempted to put up a bolting mill on other ground, and Rogers to thwart them
erected a building that would shut off all communication between the new mill
and the highway. This brought matters to a crisis, and Richard Lord of Hart-
ford and Amos Richardson of Stonington were appointed commissioners to
settle the affair, said settlement to comprehend all difficulties concerning the
mill "from the beginning of the world to the date thereof." They made a set-
tlement that was satisfactory to both Winthrop and Rogers, and the former by
the payment of a sum of money secured control of the mill.
The Winthrops continued in charge and had a monopoly of the business
until 1709. A town meeting was held on December 26 of that year and the
following vote was passed:
" Whereas, The town has suffered many years for the want of a grist
mill, and no care taken by the heirs of the former Governor Winthrop for our
rehef therein, who have sometimes claimed the privilege of supplying the
town with what grist mills are necessary, and the present grist mill belong-
ing to the late Governor Winthrop, being like to be altogether useless in a
little time, the town therefore see cause upon the request of Robert Latimer,
Stephen Prentiss, John Daniels, Richard Manwarring, Oliver Manwarring, Jr.,
and James Rogers, Jr., to grant liberty to them, or the major part of them,
to setup a gnst mill upon the falls of Jordan Brook, where it falleth into
Descriptions of Illustratioiis. 41
This put an end to the monopoly and although the Winthrops made
several attempts to regain it, the town refused their requests and disregarded
THE OLD WINTHROP HOUSE.
The Winthrop House, which appears in the picture, was the home for suc-
cessive generations of Winthrops, down to a comparatively recent date, but
is not the house in which John Winthrop lived, that having been located near
the site of the house in the picture. All that remains of the Winthrop House
is its counterfeit presentment. The house itself, after several years of a sort
of bui'densome existence for its owners, was removed to make way for the
Winthrop school building, which serves the double purpose of a school and a
guardian of the historic ground from invasion for any but public uses.
The oldest house now standing is the Hempstead House, situated on Hemp-
stead street, and in spite of its age it is still a substantial structure which
bids fair to withstand the ravages of time for many years to come. There
is some difference of opinion as to the date on which the house was built, the
general opinion being that it was constructed in 1646. This, however, appears
to be incorrect, and Miss Caulkins' history of New London, which is as good
authority as can be quoted, puts the date a number of years later. In speak-
ing of Robert Hempstead, one of the original settlers, who came to New Lon-
don in 1645 with John Winthrop, she says : " The original homestead of Rob-
ert Hempstead remains in the possession of one branch of his descendants.
The house now standing on the spot is undoubtedly the most ancient build-
ing in New London. It is nevertheless a house of the second generation
from the settlement. The first houses, rude and hastily built, passed away
with the first generation. The age of the Hempstead House is determined
by the Hempstead diary. The writer occupied the dwelling, and writing in
1743, says it has been built 65 years."
This would put the date of the erection of the house in 1678, and make
it 218 years old.
THE COURT HOUSE.
New London is a half shire town and with Norv^dch enjoys the honor of
being a county seat. This old arrangement, made when distances were more
matters of consideration than in these days of steam, brings the courts to this
city for a part of the year and to Norwich for the balance of the time. The
old court house is practically the same in outward appearance as in 1784 when
it was erected and the interior has been but little changed. Within its walls
there have been enacted many noteworthy scenes.
In the old days the court house divided with the church the dignity and
responsibility of the public business, the church brooking no division in spir-
itual matters, but trenching somewhat on the preserves of the law. Here were
all the town meetings held, whose records read so quaintly in these days and
the sessions of the court were also held in the building. Many famous trials
are remembered by old people and the records tell the story of others.
42 Descriptions of Illustrations.
Gift to the City of New London by Sebastian D. Lawrence.
The Lawrence monument to " New London soldiers and sailors who gave
their lives in defense of their country" is the most beautiful object that meets
the eye of the visitor wandering about this ancient town on a sight-seeing
tour. Its proportions have been greatly admired by all, as well as its general
design. The material used is Westerly granite than which there is no more
beautiful stone for monuments to be fouiid in this wide world. In confirma-
tion of this opinion may be cited the fact that Westerly granite from this
same quarry was ordered for a monument to Bismarck in Germany. The shaft
and surmounting figure rise 50 feet from the base.
The cost of the work was about $20,000. It is the gift, as the inscription
on the west face of the die informs the reader of the " Sons of Joseph Law-
rence," and its erection was under the supervision of Sebastian D. Lawrence,
the youngest son and sole survivor of the family.
BILL MEMORIAL LIBRARY.
Under the shadow of the granite monument commemorating the massacre
of Fort Griswold stands the " Bill Memorial Library," the gift of Frederic Bill
of Groton to his townspeople. It is constructed of Stony Creek granite and
trimmed with Maynard freestone, is fifty feet long and forty feet wide, on a
lot one hundred and thirty by one hundred and sixty-five feet, affording ample
space for enlargement when required. The architect was Stephen C. Earle of
Worcester, Mass., and Norcross Bros., also of Worcester, builders. The build-
ing was dedicated June i8th, 1890. The library contains about four thousand
volumes, issued to card holders free, and is maintained by an endowment fund
of over ten thousand dollars, also the gift of Frederic Bill.
From the vestibule aa oaken stairway leads to the historical room above,
used as a museum for relics and all articles of local and historic interest.
Here carefully cherished is the sword of Col. William Ledyard worn by him
during the massacre of Fort Griswold, and which by the hand of a British
officer was plunged to the heart of this Groton patriot.
NEW CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH,
This edifice, dedicated October sixteenth, nineteen hundred and two, is built
of field stone taken from old homesteads of the town.
Especial interest is added by there being worked into the front of the tower,
over the western entrance, stones taken from localities particularly connected
with the history of this church and town; including stones from the place where
stood the house of Carey Latham, the first white settler in Groton, and from the
farm of John Davie, Groton's first town clerk, from the old church lot where the
first meeting house in the town stood, built in 1703, and from the home lot of Rev.
Aaron Kinne, "The pastor of the Revolution." Also stones from the home lots
of every deacon connected with the church from James Avery, James Morgan and
Andrew Lester down to the present time, with many others that represent the life
and history of this town as well as church from its settlement down through the
dark days of the Revolution to the present day.
The Bill Memorial Library, Ciroton.
Old Congregational Church, Qroton.
Soldiers' and Sailors' flonument, New London.
New London Light House.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
mil nil mil II
006 149 501